Improving your level of customer service

Expansive product selection, on-time delivery, regular product training, rapid diagnostics, uptime guarantees, expanded hours, multiple locations. These are just a few of the traits businesses in the dealer channel tout as value-added services.

Professional sales consultant Jim Pancero says each and every one of those services are valuable. He says businesses would be hard pressed to keep customers happy if they didn’t provide them, but he also says because those services are almost universally offered, they’re also universally expected. Which means they actually aren’t value-added services at all.

In today’s selling atmosphere, Pancero says those services represent the bottom of the four levels of customer service. They are assumed and expected. To provide true value-added services, Pancero says it is time for business to stop being reactionary and start taking initiative. That means focusing on the top two levels of customer service (trusted advisor and profit generator) and providing services that leave customers impressed and amazed.

“The key to service is not how responsive you are; it’s about how much initiative you have,” he says. “The more proactive control you have with a customer the more loyalty you’ll have from that customer.”

There are multiple methods for dealers willing to update their go-to-market strategy to become better partners with their fleet customers.

One option is through predictive customer monitoring and what Pancero calls “condition-based monitoring” of customer assets. The former is where a dealer tracks customer purchasing and usage trends to identify when assets are likely to need service and schedules the customer for that work before the unit goes down. The latter is that same concept on steroids. Essentially, the dealer is given autonomy to monitor the customer’s equipment and perform all maintenance. The “customer releases all role of responsibility to the vendor,” Pancero says.

Another proactive approach to customer service can come in how your sales people structure their sales calls. This works for new and used truck sales departments as well as parts and service calls. Pancero says a lot of salespeople, particularly long-time employees, are obsessed with the close. He says for decades sales people were taught to “Always Be Closing,” and thus when a veteran sales person sits down with a customer they will jump at the first chance they see to solve a problem and complete a sale.

Pancero says that drive to solve customer problems is laudable but adds that when a sales person jumps at the first close they may cut off a customer who was willing to offer more. He says the solution is stop being a “slimeball” who is always talking and pitching, and instead become a “low-pressure sales professional” who asks good questions and listens to customers. The more a customer talks, the better the sales person can understand their business and the full scope of their needs, he says.

Responding to a customer-established interaction is another area where proper strategy is a necessity. Pancero says today’s truck owner is a different animal than 10 or even five years ago. They spend more time online researching their vehicles. They have access to more data than ever before. He says while this can lead to a more informed customer, it also can lead to a more ill-informed customer.

Pancero’s preferred method for assisting a misinformed customer is his five quick questions. He describes the five quick questions as probing questions sales professionals ask know-it-all customers that enable them to better understand their customers’ needs and determine if the product they came in for will actually work for what they want it to do.

He says the questions can be anything a business wants them to be, but ideally, they should be simple questions — What is your daily route? How much weight do you need to haul? — that encourage a customer to respond.

“When you ask the questions, it allows you to regain control of the buying process,” he says.

Finally, Pancero notes the importance of understanding that a proper sales call doesn’t end with the close — it ends with a conversation about when the two parties can speak again. Pancero says a sales person shouldn’t want to sell one truck or one part one time. They should want to sell everything they can to a customer as much as they possibly can.

By planning another meeting as one concludes, Pancero sales people can return later at the customer’s behest, saying “you asked me to come back today.”